Forty Years Hence

On Feb. 10, 1973, just 19 days after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Roe v. Wade, an associate editor of this magazine expressed fear that “this new law of the land” would “continue to be so, at least for the next few years and possibly for a very long time.” That editor’s dismal, worst-case scenario has come to pass: Last month marked 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court established a limited constitutional right to abortion. Approximately one million abortions are now performed annually in the United States, a fact that should deeply pain the conscience of the nation.

Anniversaries are an ideal time for taking stock, and the pro-life movement must carefully assess the social and political realities. Frankly, it is a mixed bag. While an emerging conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court had raised our hopes for a complete reversal of Roe, most of the justices appear reluctant to do more than adjust the margins of that ruling. While there has been one reliably anti-abortion political party in the United States, Republicans nationwide, smarting from their losses in 2012, may move away from their anti-abortion orthodoxy in a misguided attempt to attract more voters. Meanwhile, the Democrats, who at one point seemed poised to welcome pro-life Democrats back into the fold, staged the most ardently “pro-choice” convention in memory in 2012. Still, broader public opinion favors at least some restrictions on abortion, a fact that neither party can afford to ignore and that no pro-life activist should take for granted.

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There are other signs of hope: The thousands of people who attended the March for Life this year prove that the pro-life cause still has traction, especially among the young. Polls, too, show that an increasing number of young women describe themselves as pro-life. Pro-choice activists should not so easily link the push for women’s rights with the pro-choice cause. The success of the annual March for Life affirms another political reality: The most effective movements for change are sustained by grassroots support. Let us pray that this movement will continue to grow and thrive, that, 40 years hence, we will pause to celebrate a newfound culture of life in America, one that protects, in both principle and law, the most vulnerable among us.

A Nation of Takers?

Here is a startling fact: About 96 percent of Americans benefit from some kind of government assistance. Whether the benefit is student loans or Medicare, chances are that at some point in your life you will receive public aid. This figure is instructive regarding the role of government in the lives of citizens. The divide in this country is not between the “47 percent” who depend on government programs and those who do not. The story of government assistance is more complicated, more surprising and ultimately more vexing.

Consider this: The top 20 percent of households receive 10 percent of entitlement spending, yet they receive 66 percent of tax expenditure benefits. In other words, they receive a disproportionate share of tax breaks in the form of exemptions, deductions or credits. High earners also receive better benefits packages at work. While these benefits are not government assistance per se, the government has opted to let employers handle the disbursement of certain social resources. These facts should shape the way the government approaches social welfare. Sensible tax reform is within reach and could help to bridge the gap between rich and poor.

Don’t Worry, Be Grateful

Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California, Davis, has the enviable task (an emotion that is not similarly endorsed) of studying gratitude. In Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, Mr. Emmons tracks the many benefits realized by folks who have integrated gratitude into their busy lives and its positive impact on their general well-being. He has discovered that to be effective, gratefulness cannot take the form of ungracious self-approval. Good fortune must be appreciated as a gift, unearned, bestowed by God or another individual.

Fortunately, the attitude of gratitude itself does not necessarily follow this rubric. Mr. Emmons reports that gratitude is an emotional skill that can be cultivated—by making a daily habit, for example, of jotting down three things you are grateful for at bedtime or keeping a gratitude jar on the kitchen counter to collect notes recording blessings and thanks.

Now, thanks to the Internet, we can even share our gratitude with the world. The World Gratitude Map (gratitude.crowdmap.com) tracks outbreaks of gratefulness across the earth in microposts from gratitudees, geographically e-pegged and telling tales of good fortune and thanks that can be read by all. Perhaps in the future U.N. quick-reaction teams can use the map to rush emotional resources to hotspots of ingratitude. The map has tracked thankfulness for a sunset in Cape Town, South Africa, heroic snow-plowing in Nova Scotia and those times a great mom and a sister “have been there” in Boise, Idaho.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Nancy Walton-House
5 years 10 months ago
For those interested in gratitude, I suggest reading the books and learning online from Brother David Steindl-Rast OSB who is a world authority on the subject. His book "Gratefulness, The Heart of Prayer: An Approach to Life in Fullness" (Paulist Press, 1984) is considered by many to be the best book to date on the subject. A Network for Grateful Living’s website www.gratefulness.org is based on his work and provides many free services. The website Spirituality & Practice www.spiritualityandpractice.com offers four e-courses based on Brother David's work. People from all over the world have been participants in these courses.
Leonard Villa
5 years 10 months ago
"Disproportionate share of tax breaks for the 10%?" Well in order to qualify for a tax break you need to actually pay taxes. Close to half the country does not pay taxes. The so-called 10% are the people needed in the economy to create jobs and wealth. The Government takes and does not create wealth needed for economic growth. The Country cannot survive with massive increasing government entitlements while almost half the country does not pay taxes. The Federal Government and taxes cannot be the default position for every problem. This kind of spending cannot be sustained. Even if you taxed every rich person 100% you could not sustain our goverment spending. We have just had minus growth in the country. Many people ran to our country precisely to escape oppressive government in the economy. Check out Greece, France, Europe in general, the State of California. Socialism and socialistic schemes fail every time they are tried.
Mike Evans
5 years 10 months ago
Shameful mistating of the true state of taxation. All workers pay 6.5% payroll taxes. All consumers pay sales taxes. Every homeowner and renter pays property taxes. The so-called 47% include rich and poor as recipients of social security, MediCare, government rebates, education subsidies, toll-free roads, crop supports, and the general protections of our laws. We are all takers except perhaps some survivalist living entirely off the grid and never coming out of his/her bunker. Let's return to a sense of serving the common good instead of isolating a few recipients as more worthy or more exempt than others.
Robert Asselin
5 years 10 months ago
"Consider this: The top 20 percent of households receive 10 percent of entitlement spending, yet they receive 66 percent of tax expenditure benefits. In other words, they receive a disproportionate share of tax breaks in the form of exemptions, deductions or credits. High earners also receive better benefits packages at work. While these benefits are not government assistance per se, the government has opted to let employers handle the disbursement of certain social resources. These facts should shape the way the government approaches social welfare. Sensible tax reform is within reach and could help to bridge the gap between rich and poor." Just a minute, my America friends! Your reading of employer benefit packages is way off base. Those benefits are earned by employees and generally considered to offset additional salary dollar for dollar. They are a cost to employers financed from sales revenue, not the result of the government's "opting to let employers handle the disbursement of certain social resources." "Certain social resources" is a vague term. We are not talking about public resources. What is happening here is that employers are being legally mandated to provide for health insurance from resources reserved for employee remuneration, or, in the case of other benefits, funding them with the approval of employees who give up receiving additional salary in return. Regarding tax expenditures, it is not surprising that higher earners take more advantage of them since it requires disposable income above necessities to be able to expend funds and qualify for them. Furthermore, their purpose - except when abused - is to induce expenditures of private funds for public goods (benefits for the society as a whole). Yes, there are way too many of them, and their utility is questionable, but it is misleading to count them as some sort of government benefit for the well-off. Finally, tax reform is not the best tool for the desirable and necessary goal of narrowing the gap between rich and poor. Much better are well-designed government programs and good laws. Your editorial betrays an attitude that the government controls society's resources. It uses those our citizens decide to allocate to it for specified purposes.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
"The top 20 percent of households receive 10 percent of entitlement spending, yet they receive 66 percent of tax expenditure benefits. In other words, they receive a disproportionate share of tax breaks in the form of exemptions, deductions or credits." So financial success is no longer the goal of working for a living, saving for the future ie to earn a salary and acquire a next egg, large or small, for the future. It is to have the government declare that what you have worked for, earned and saved is actually the government's and they intend to take it through higher taxes and limiting or eliminating deductions. This is not the America that my grandparents and parents knew during the depression and they taught me and my siblings to work hard, save for our old age which the five of us, now retired, have done. A report from the Internal Revenue Service found that the rich — 8,274 people with incomes of $10 million per year or more — earned a total of $240 billion in 2009. Even of you confiscated every dime they earned, you would barely have enough money to cover government spending for 24 days. Of course, about a quarter of that money already goes to the federal government for federal income. So make that 18 days. Another 227,000 people earned $1 million or more in 2009. Millionaires averaged taxes of 24.4% of their income — up from 23.1% in 2008. They, too, did not earn enough money to come anywhere close to covering the annual deficits that are now $1.5 trillion a year as Barack Obama was the first president to sign a budget with a $1 trillion deficit into law. The obvious conclusion even to the highly educated editors must be that the United States government has a spending problem, accelerated by the reckless spending increases of the Obama administration, that cannot be solved by tax increases even if all the wealth of every American citizen was confiscated, killing, of course, the proverbial geese that provided the golden eggs. Is it the role of government to be the essential and probably soon the only source of Charity as the Obama administration and other presidential candidates offer plans to reduce the tax credits for charitable contributions for those who provide the most: http://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-war-on-philanthropy-15190 This would have a serious impact on the financial ability of all religious affiliated charities to carry out their good works. When does confiscatory tax rates in the guise of 'for the common good' on wage earners who already provide 90%+ of all incomes tax revenues become a challenge to the ability of religious and non-government charitable organizations to carry out their own charitable functions? 47 percent of all wage earners pay no income tax and are already recipients of considerable welfare in the guise of tax credits and the untold number of government programs, both federal and State. It appears that the Catholic Church and other religious groups do not even recognize that Obama plans to reduce or eliminate religious organizations and non-government groups, from their historic roles and replace them with socialistic government run programs. All one need do is to observe the complete and total failure of total government control in communist and socialist countries of caring for their poor. Why any thinking person would advocate inflicting government as the major or sole giver of help to our poor is beyond belief.
Marie Rehbein
5 years 10 months ago
"Even of you confiscated every dime they earned, you would barely have enough money to cover government spending for 24 days." What does the government spend it's money on? "Defense", for one. A lot of this money is where the very rich get their (so-called) earnings. Subsidies for agribusiness, subsidies for oil companies, etc. are much more of the deficit spending than AFDC and Food Stamps and Medicaid. Also, please do not lump Medicare and Social Security in with government deficit spending, as these are programs for which money is taken out of every paycheck we get. Finally, Obama plans to eliminate religious groups and replace them with government run programs? Where do you get this idea?
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
What do you think?" "An analysis by the Government Accountability Institute (GAI) of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) figures has found that audits of tax-exempt charities have increased 79% under President Barack Obama. GAI President Peter Schweizer reports that from 2001 to 2008, the IRS audited an average of 6,205 tax-exempt organizations a year. From 2009 to 2011, the average number of returns audited jumped to 11,111. GAI says the spike in audits is not explained by a greater number of returns being filed. In fact, for the years examined, GAI says the IRS received a lower average rate of returns under Obama (819,417) than under President George W. Bush (847,898). The GAI’s findings come on the heels of a controversial White House gathering last month with the heads of charitable organizations, wherein the Obama Administration allegedly engaged in “bullying” and “intimidation” tactics to scare charities into supporting Obama’s tax hikes on the wealthy or face the prospect of losing their tax-exempt status. Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) condemned the incident in a joint statement: " What the White House did today is disturbingly reminiscent of how it conducted itself during congressional consideration of Obamacare–telling groups that they better back the White House, or else. Bullying isn’t leading. These kind of intimidation tactics are unacceptable, and they need to stop now." Read the rest at: http://www.breitbart.com/Big-Government/2013/02/04/IRS-Audits-of-Charities-Up-79-Under-Obama
Marie Rehbein
5 years 10 months ago
I am pretty sure they monitor charities closely to look for terrorism funding. They don't pick on only Muslim charities, so all charities are scrutinized equally. Breitbart is not the most reliable of sources, in my opinion.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
As you judge the message by your opinion of the messenger perhaps Cardinal George might qualify as a trusted voice. It is Marxist non-theological doctrine to eliminate God and the Family and leave only the State that one owed not only allegiance but also his/her soul. Francis Cardinal George described it as, "Freedom of worship was guaranteed in the constitution of the former Soviet Union," Cardinal George wrote in a column in the Catholic New World. "You could go to church, if you could find one. The church, however, could do nothing except conduct religious rites in places of worship — no schools, religious publications, health care institutions, organized charity, ministry for justice and works of mercy that flow naturally from a living faith. We fought a long Cold War to defeat that vision of society." Obama and his anti-religious bureaucrats seek to impose Marxist theology on all religious faithful through administrative mandates, rules and regulations.
J Cosgrove
5 years 10 months ago
Mr. Mosman, You might be interested in an article by Richard Epstein titled "The End of Charity" http://www.hoover.org/publications/defining-ideas/article/139186 He is also a frequent contributor to the John Batchelor Show and was on for two segments on Friday night. If you are interested, you can find the mp3 file at http://feeds.feedburner.com/JohnBatchelorShow Search for "charity" and you will find it under last Friday night, February 1. Epstein is a really smart guy but he talks very fast and his sentences are always content full so it is hard to follow him in real time. He is a law professor who teaches at NYU and the University of Chicago and is also on the faculty of Stanford.
Marie Rehbein
5 years 10 months ago
Grassroots Fundraising Journal: “Most money given away in the private sector comes from individuals, and most of the gifts are from middle class, working class and poor people. That’s most people: 91% of Americans earn less than $100,000 per year, and 70% of adults give away money. More than half receive no tax benefit for their giving because they file a short tax form.” (I can't believe I am citing the following given it's Fox, but...) Also, see this: http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2011/12/07/five-tax-deductions-that-favor-rich/
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
No doubt you are familiar with the fact that wealthy individuals, ie Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, have sheltered tens of billions of dollars from the IRS by creating charitable trusts for themselves and their children. Mr Buffett even told Charlie Rose that his daughter's and sons' charitable trusts could do a better, more efficient job than the federal government. The Uber-liberals of New York city went ballistic when David H. Koch pledged 100 million dollars over 10 years to update and refurbish the New York State Theater at Lincoln center and even more so when it was accepted.The theater was renamed the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center at a dedication ceremony in 2008. One can enjoy the discomfort of New York Time theater and ballet critics entering the showplace named after David H. Koch and having to mention his name in their reviews.
Dan Hannula
5 years 10 months ago
The United States is clearly outdone in so-called "Confiscatory tax rates in the guise of for the common good" by the Norwegians, Danes, Swedes, Finns, and other nations that I'm sure you'd label socialist failures. So why do you suppose they rank in the top ten on the "Legatum Prosperity Index" of 142 nations comprising about 95% of the world's population? As Dan Pat Moynihan used to say, you have aright to your own opinion, but not your own facts.
J Cosgrove
5 years 10 months ago
The four Scandinavian countries are completely different from the United States. They are very small, homogeneous, have high natural resources relative to their small populations, have almost no military expenditures and their educational expenses are much less than the US as they have contracting populations. An economics professor of mine once said you can implement socialist principles only as far as the horizon. What he meant by this is that as long as you can easily see the effects of the socialist programs and were viewed as fair and not being abused, the more likely they will be accepted. Also it is important that the populations be just like me, that is the more homogeneous it was the more likely the programs would be accepted. My wife and I were on a cruise two years ago and two of our dinner partners were from Denmark. They defended their high tax system but said there were growing problems with immigrants who were not part of the dominant culture and were taking advantage of the generous benefits in ways a typical Dane would not.
E.Patrick Mosman
5 years 10 months ago
Well, the fact is that Sweden has recognized that socialism was and is a failure and implemented drastic financial and economic changes as pointed out in the following article in the Economist : http://www.economist.com/news/special-report/21570840-nordic-countries-are-reinventing-their-model-capitalism-says-adrian Perhaps you could explain how anyone or country has taxed, borrowed and spent it way to success.
Craig McKee
5 years 10 months ago
Having just this very morning paid my Hong Kong income taxes with the click of a button at my local ATM, I am wondering if an across the board flat tax rate regardless of total income is not the most equitable of all. Over here, employers do no witholding of the mandatory 15% income tax and the government will gladly calculate your taxes for you based on the numbers they receive from all sources of earned income and send you the bill which you are obliged to pay in two installments (75% and 25%) within four months. If you wish to report DEDUCTIONS for education, elderly parent maintenance, charitable contributions, you may do so and re-calculate your tax owed. It may not be the best system in the world, but every year their government always seems to manage some kind of budget surplus, which is usually spent on "one-off supplemental payments" to lower income members of society. Of course, Hong Kong, like Costa Rica, does not maintain an army, navy, air force or marine corps which assumes its own inalienable right to bear arms around the globe to make the world safe for democracy. Perhaps it's time for American charity to truly begin AT HOME? Now that, would truly be a source of GRATITUDE!
J Cosgrove
5 years 10 months ago
"Perhaps it's time for American charity to truly begin AT HOME? Now that, would truly be a source of GRATITUDE!" Tell that to the PLA, North Korea, Iran and Al Qaeda. Costa Rica purposely got rid of its military because it knew that the US would stop any aggression towards it.

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